David Starkey Highlights Erosion In The Black Community

David Starkey

Jeevan Robinson

Release Date

Monday, August 15, 2011


In my opinion, the London riots were not isolated incidents. Observed over a period of time, there has been a transformational shift in the value structures of many of our Black communities.

There is a mountain of blame and post analysis going around. UK based historian, David Starkey, made some controversial remarks, blaming some aspects of black culture, such as rap music, for crossing ethnic barriers and negatively influencing young white males.

Starkey may have felt assured in his observations but many do feel that he has gotten it wrong. Listening to him speak on the BBC, it was clear that his comments would caused offense, especially to the Black community.

It is this sense of a Black community' that has been churning in my mind. What has become of the Black community? I do not agree with Starkey but examining why he was led to draw the conclusions he did, I wanted to look at the assumed logical development in his argument.

Often, I have wondered about the effects of gangster rap and some aspects of dancehall music on the behavioural shift we have been witnessing in our young people.

It is not a behavioural shift rooted only in British society but in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, many of our Black communities' can attest to similar stories of a breakdown in youth behaviour. I am aware also that this is not only a Black youths problem.

I am not a sociologist, so I will not seek to get theoretical but there is a serious discussion to be had about the impact of the images and lyrics that gangster rap and some forms of Dancehall music have been having on our young people. Has it helped to spur aggressive behaviour, extreme materialism and overt sexual tendencies in our youth?

This article will not assume to examine all the causes. There are far too many complex political, socio-economic and other related factors to examine. But I want to look at the structure of our present Black/Caribbean communities and ask the question as to whether we are losing the fabric of what the Black community stood for?

A significant proportion of Black cultural expressions, especially in the Diaspora, has been given this rather annoying urban' tag. It beats me because I often ask, well what exactly is urban' and how do you define and tag our cultural expressions as urban? I've never been too fond of it as it seems to pander to is commercialism and in some regards the marginalisation of Black culture. Due to this marginalised and boxed in approach, people like historian, David Starkey, become empowered to assert their positions.

Why do our youths commit crime, steal and murder each other as if they are no less mindful of the consequences? A large proportion of the blame has been laid at the feet of parents but it goes beyond that and I suggest that over the years there has been a profound erosion of the fundamentals that comprise our sense of a community'.

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The community' I am talking about here entails such variables as our values; our respect culture; our hard work ethic towards setting and achieving goals. Our spirituality and the Church; plus involvement in youth groups. Also, the role of the extended family in a child's upbringing; their educational accomplishments; parental, as well as the wider community's involvement in raising a child and the type of friendships those children kept. The list is by no means exhausted but these are some of the key areas that pertain to my question surrounding community'.

Growing up in a firm West Indian household, I can never imagine any of my Mother's children or my friends partaking in the scenes that transpired last week in London. I am not suggesting that in the Caribbean young people grew up as saints. We did have some troublemakers but the vast majority shared a common sense of decency and similar value structures. Hence, why collectively, many of us can expres how repulsed we were at last week's London violence and looting.

Our community helped to define us; it spiritualized us and pointed our moral compass.

That loss of community' as we knew it, may be having too much of a negative impact on our young people. The struggles parents are coping with to survive and maintain jobs, the prevalence of single parent households in our communities, the lack of a father figure in our children's lives, the removal of that personalised spiritual guidance from the Church coupled with the intense materialism depicted daily in the media; all these make raising a child tougher today than ever before.

When the weight was not on the parent only, but on that practice of community', then parents did not have to worry as much, as they had help from varying quarters. I do believe that for parents raising young men particularly, it is harder now to cope. Just look at our young men.

What I saw for a long time was destitution, unemployment, thuggish behaviour patterns and anger. Too many of our young men are living lives as multiple baby fathers, video games obsessed, massive alcohol and weed consumers, while at the same time becoming deeply materialistic.

I am not seeking to make a depressing situation any worse than it is but for progress we must honestly engage in fruitful debate. Thus, I prefer to be frank also exploratory at the same time.

Too many of our Black communities' are broken. There is potently aggressive youth behaviour and the massive loss of the respect culture.

It is a discussion to be had further if not for anything else but for the future of our young people.

Photo Credit To Channel 4

Jeevan Robinson is Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive. He can be reached at jeevan@mnialive.com

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